Good faith obligations still applied despite decision not to proceed with disciplinary process

The Employment Court found that a letter of outcome issued by an employer to an employee amounted to an unjustified disadvantage grievance and ordered the employer to pay $20,000 in compensation. The employer commenced an investigation into an email that the employer was concerned amounted to a security breach, but which the employee disputed ever sending. Ultimately the employer concluded it was very likely the employee had sent the email. However, the employer decided not to pursue a disciplinary process and instead just gave the employee a letter of outcome. When providing the employee with that letter, the employer said that should an incident of a similar nature or breach of security occur in the future, it might result in a disciplinary process. The employer attempted to argue that it should not be held to a procedural standard that would be expected if the employer had chosen to undertake a disciplinary process (indicating the employer thought some lesser standard should apply). However, the Court did not accept that the employer’s actions could be measured against a diluted procedural standard. The Court expressed a number of concerns in relation to the employer’s process, ultimately concluding that the employer had not acted in a fair and reasonable way nor complied with its good faith obligations.

Johnson v Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force

Reproduced with permission of Wolters Kluwer